St Mawes CastleScenically overlooking the Falmouth Estuary, St Mawes was built at the same time as its sister Pendennis Castle to protect Carrick Roads. These two fortifications known collectively as the Falmouth Fortress were designed to protect England against a seaward invasion. This never came but the two castles would later serve as strongholds during the English Civil War
Constructed between 1540 and 1545, St Mawes Castle and Pendennis Castle were links in a chain designed to protect England's southern coast. Following his Dissolution of the Monasteries Henry VIII expected Catholic retribution from Spain and France. Although many of these fortifications have survived to the second millenium, St Mawes is the charm amongst them. Never a witness to warfare, St. Mawes has suffered little alteration over the centuries and remains one of the best preserved Tudor fortifications to be found in England.
Three semi-circular bastions surround a central tower giving St. Mawes a clover leafed shape from a bird's eye perspective. However, some of the most interesting Tudor pieces to be seen here are not the actual fortifications but elaborate Tudor designs and ornamentation that are lacking in most of Henry VIII's other castles. At St Mawes, you'll see gargoyles, string courses, elaborate windows and Tudor inscriptions as you make you way through your four level tour. Entering St Mawes Castle via the drawbridge, you'll pass under the Royal Coat of Arms into the decorated tower. Here you'll see wooden carvings of a cherub, fleur-de-lys, a monk and some Tudor roses.
Despite its ornamentation, St Mawes Castle was specifically designed as an artillery fort. Its three bastions and tower provided a wide range for gun placements that could cover any angle of the Falmouth estuary. This state of the art design included gunplatforms which provided ventilation shafts to reduce smoke from gunshot. However, from the outset St. Mawes suffered a fatal flaw. Constructed to protect vulnerable waters, St Mawes Castle was overlooked by a hillside and would always be at the mercy of a landward attack. So hopeless was its position from this angle that during the English Civil War. St Mawes Castle was surrendered to the Parliamentarians even before any gunfire rang through the air. In contrast, the larger and better positioned Pendennis Castle defended its position in a siege that lasted six months.
Beautifully situated overlooking the Falmouth Estuary and surrounded by gardens, St Mawes is an attraction guaranteed to please any visitor to the area. On your tour, you'll be able to explore the four levels of the central tower and get great photos from the bastions. If you want to make a day of it, you can follow a 2 mile coastal trail from St Mawes Castle to the beautiful St Just-in-the-Roseland Church.
Address: St Mawes Castle
Postcode: TR2 3AA
Town/city or near: St Mawes
St Mawes Castle is open everyday except Saturday between 10am and 5pm from April to September (also open Saturdays in September). From October to March, St Mawes Castle is open from 10am to 4pm on Mondays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.